Good guys have a very simple job description: make the audience root for you and don’t be a dickhead. Is it really that hard…?
Dr Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy
You’ve got to make allowances for crackpot scientists, what with them being crackpot scientists and everything. We can let slide Doc’s cavalier use of such profanity as “Great Scott!” and “1.21 gigawatts!” around the young and impressionable Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox). We’re even willing to overlook his selfish disregard for the space-time continuum, his questionable relationship with Marty (who he asks to meet him in a deserted car park with a video camera at quarter past one in the morning) and the fact that he very nearly ploughs through said adolescent with a massive train at the end of the third film.
We can make our peace with all that. But terrorism? Fucking terrorism, Doc? The audience is encouraged to take little notice of the fact that the delightfully eccentric Dr Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) confesses to building a bomb for terrorists in exchange for the plutonium used to power the time circuits of the DeLorean. How the chuff did you get the details of terrorists, Doc? You didn’t just Google it, did you? You actively sought out the help of bomb-making terrorists, made them a fake bomb from “used pinball machine parts” and didn’t even bother to alert the authorities.
So what happens? The terrorists turn up and shoot him dead in front of Marty, who is forced to escape to 1955 in a time machine and get molested by his own mother. Being a nice sort of chap, Marty writes 1955 Doc a letter explaining that he needs to take precautions in the future to avoid this “terrible disaster”, only for the Doc to rip it up in front of his face. And what does the Doc say when Marty races to his side after getting back to the future a tad too late to save him? He says, “Well, I figured, what the hell!”, grinning as he shows Marty a bulletproof vest and the letter he Sellotaped back together. Not, “Marty, I’m so sorry for making deals with bomb-hungry terrorists, which resulted in you getting shot at by a fucking rocket launcher and ultimately almost erased from existence.” No, he just drops him off at home before nipping off to the future for a face-lift. Dickhead.
Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Although his maltreatment and total disregard for the safety of the children taking tours of his factory could give Fred and Rose West a run for their money, Wonka’s true nature is actually far more sinister. So sinister in fact, that all traces of his dark past have been completely erased from copies of the book published after 1973, and there is absolutely no mention of it by either the Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp incarnation of the monster.
But the fact of the matter is, boys and girls, that Willy Wonka is a vicious slave master. That’s right, the Oompa Loompas were originally black pygmies recruited from a place where “no white man has ever set foot”. After spies infiltrated his factory and “forced him” to lay off every other employee and close down the factory, Wonka travelled to deepest darkest Africa to recruit workers who would not only never leave the factory, but would be paid only in chocolate. These slaves wear only leaves (except the child slaves, who walk around Mr Wonka’s factory stark-bollock-naked) and would appear to work every hour that God sends.
On the big screen, the Oompa Loompas are funny little orange-faced men wearing traditional German clothing (in the 1971 film, anyway). Later, Tim Burton cast Indian-Kenyan actor Deep Roy for his 2005 version of the quirky/totally immoral story. However, unlike the book, his film did not include a moment where little doe-eyed Charlie Bucket asks, “Are they made of chocolate too, Mr Wonka?”
No they are fucking not made of chocolate! What the fuck?
Kevin’s Mom from Home Alone
Ask any decent human being what their number-one Christmas wish is and they will tell you that all they want is for Kevin’s mum to make it home in time to see her son on December 25th. OK, the McCallisters are a big family. Who are we to say it’s irresponsible to spawn 58 children and try to take them all on holiday with you? We’re not the social services. We don’t go to people’s houses and say, “It’s kind of fucked up that you would lock your kid in the attic and then leave him home alone during Christmas.” No, that’s not us. We’re just the audience, whose belief has been suspended just enough to enjoy Macaulay Culkin sliding down the staircase on a toboggan and kicking seven shades of shit out of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
But what kind of a dickhead does that to her kid twice? We’re not saying it’s easy being a mother, but we do believe that to be completely oblivious to the fact that your own flesh and blood is not with you until you are in baggage claim – not just once, but on two separate occasions – warrants just a little bit of jail time.
After going to the police station in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the officer taking her report asks if Kevin has ever been in a situation like this before, to which Kevin’s mum initially lies (or possibly simply forgets, as she has a tendency to do) before jovially recalling doing exactly the same thing to the poor little nipper just one year before. “OK, we’ll call Chicago, it’s unlikely he’d be anywhere else,” replies officer Dickhead, echoing the sentiment of every other irresponsible adult who encounters the abandoned child and fails to react appropriately.
The bloke from The Walking Dead in Love, Actually
This is one of the we-think-he’s-a-bad-guy-but-he’s-actually-kind-of-sweet sort of characters. A guy who is obnoxious and rude to his best friend’s new wife, only to later let it slip that the reason for his childish sulking is because he is head-over-heels in love with her. Aw…
But how exactly does she find out about his feelings for her? By popping round to have a look at the wedding video he made and discovering that he got a little “creative” with the camera angles. But instead of pretentiously filming a Tesco’s carrier bag floating about like any other decent cinema perv, he’s zooming in on his best mate’s new wife’s tits! On her fucking wedding day!
So instead of asking her if she would meet him for a coffee to explain, or maybe sending a discreet letter or email, Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) decides to turn up at her door and instructs her to call to her boyfriend and tell him it’s carol singers (which she does, with little regard for the fact that this looks very much like a textbook kidnapping), and goes on to reveal a series of slides explaining how much he loves her – featuring an image of a rotting corpse. It’s only after she chases him down the street and plants a smacker on his lips (fuck knows why) that he decides his tirade of creepy behaviour must finally come to an end.
Mufasa from The Lion King
What? One of the most beloved and revered characters from the Disneyverse is really nothing but a dickhead? Surely not! Well, yes, actually. Mufasa from The Lion King (voiced by James Earl Jones) is in fact one of the biggest dickheads in movies. And here’s why…
There’s a touching scene towards the beginning of the film where Mufasa shows his son Simba the lay of the land and tells him that one day it will all be his. This inevitably makes the excitable little scamp completely spaz out, until he’s told by his dad that he must under no circumstances enter the “shadowy place”, with little in the way of explanation (which is a bit like telling a kid, “Don’t push this big, red button because absolutely nothing awesome will happen”). Soon after, Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) arrives to inform Mufasa that the “slobbering, mangy poachers” (the hyenas) have entered the Pridelands, at which point Mufasa charges off to enforce his unjustified laws of segregation.
Being an adventurous little tyke, Simba later tells his mum he’s just nipping off to the waterhole. “Well… it’s alright with me,” says Mum, obviously concerned about her only child going out alone. “As long as you take Mr-Bean-in-bird-form with you, who will surely prove handy if things get a bit hairy.” What? It’s not like the only dangers in the wilds of Africa are a couple of no-good crooks wandering around looking to pinch a few Christmas presents. We’re talking about deadly, high-on-crack, baby-eating hyenas that cannot be easily neutralised with a few well-timed paint cans to the face.
And sure enough, when Simba wanders off to the elephant graveyard, Zazu is easily snatched up by starving hyenas (who are starving because Mufasa banished them from the nice bit of the Pridelands where the food is. What part of the “circle of life” explains that, Mufasa?) before turning their attention on Simba.
Luckily, Mufasa turns up in the nick of time to save everyone. But what the fuck was he doing there in the first place? Looking to score some crack? Perhaps visiting a hooker he had previously knocked up after a night out on the piss with Rafiki? Or did he know that Simba was very likely to do the exact opposite of what he said (as kids do) so followed him and only decided to step in when the kid was suitably terrified?
But OK, lesson learned. At least Mufasa knows not to leave little Simba to wander around unsupervised again. Oh… no, wait, is that Simba about to be trampled by a stampede of gazelle? Yes, it is, only this time Mufasa’s neglect of his parental duties backfires when he himself is put in mortal danger and killed. Good, at least social services can take things from here…